October 24, 2012 Update: Both houses of the Mexican Congress have passed a package of labor law changes that will roll back protections for workers as described below. The Senate version passed this week and now must be approved or reconciled with the version passed by the lower house.
The Mexican Congress is scheduled to vote on September 27 on a package of labor law changes that would roll back protections for workers and make it even more difficult than it already is for workers to organize democratic trade unions. Rather than addressing the corrupt protection contract system under which employers and business-friendly “unions” collude with local labor boards to block legitimate worker organizing, the changes would strengthen the protection contract system. The package would also create additional impediments to striking, effectively promote subcontracting, and violate union autonomy.
Outrageously, the move to weaken labor law in Mexico comes just as the government is about to join trade negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In testimony given before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on September 21, the AFL-CIO argued that, “Admitting Mexico to the next round of [TPP trade] talks without action on the government of Mexico’s failure to afford its workers fundamental labor rights abandons commitments to workers in both countries.” Weakening labor laws in Mexico two weeks before joining TPP negotiations would be a further abandonment of workers in both countries.
In a U.S. congressional letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and nine other members of Congress expressed dismay at the pending vote and asked the Obama Administration to urge the Mexican government to protect rather than weaken worker rights protections.
IndustriALL, the global union federation representing manufacturing workers, issued a call today to action for its affiliates and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a September 18 letter opposing the reform package. At the request of Mexican unions, USLEAP and other worker rights supporters have been contacting key members of the Mexican congress to express opposition to the package. Mexican unions were rallying today against the bill and plan an encampment next week to oppose passage.
While several earlier attempts to pass the proposed changes have failed, the Mexican trade union movement is concerned that the outgoing PAN government will join forces with the incoming PRI government and pass the bill, which is on a fast track for consideration in the lame duck Congress.
For more information on the pending legislation, including an analysis and tri-national statement opposing it, see Mexican Labor News and Analysis.